PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins will attempt to win their 10th consecutive home game Saturday afternoon before embarking on an extended road trip when they face the Calgary Flames at Consol Energy Center.
Pittsburgh, which is on a season-high nine-game home win streak, has won six straight overall and leads the NHL in wins (14) and points (29) since Nov. 18. Its record is 14-2-1 during that stretch.
"There's no secret. We're just trying to compete every night with guys out," Sidney Crosby said on Friday. "I think everyone is just trying to find a way to contribute and make sure we're picking up our game as best we can."
The Penguins played well despite facing a rash of injuries and suspensions that have sidelined five of their top seven defenseman and five forwards, including Evgeni Malkin. None of their injured players will return Saturday in their last home game until Jan. 3, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Bylsma said it is possible Malkin, who has missed three games with a lower-body injury, could return against the Ottawa Senators on Monday.
"Considering the time period and the time frame we have now after today's game, Ottawa being Monday's game, there will be consideration to that [Malkin playing]," Bylsma said. "But he did skate today, he skated a greater length today. We have to weigh that."
Defenseman Brooks Orpik practiced on Friday for the first time since suffering a concussion on Dec. 7. Orpik participated in contact drills with injured teammates Rob Scuderi and Tanner Glass, and suspended defenseman Deryk Engelland.
The Flames, who will finish a five-game road trip Saturday, have lost three consecutive games (one in regulation), but have earned a point in seven of their nine December contests. Bylsma said he has been impressed by Calgary's performance since Flames captain Mark Giordano returned on Dec. 6 after missing 18 games with a broken ankle.
"Looking at their last three games, the work ethic and the battle stands out on the team," Bylsma said. "I don't think you can look at the way they play without looking at how their D skate and what their D do well in terms of Giordano and [Kris] Russell.
"Their top-four are a big part of their team, skating and being active. You see a real competitive, hardworking team right now."
Marc-Andre Fleury will start for the Penguins. Pittsburgh signed backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff to a two-year contract extension on Saturday that will kick in next season with an average annual value of $600,000.
Here are the expected lineups for the Penguins and Flames:
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis
Harry Zolnierczyk – Jussi Jokinen – James Neal
Chris Conner – Brandon Sutter – Joe Vitale
Craig Adams – Zach Sill – Chuck Kobasew
Matt Niskanen – Olli Maatta
Robert Bortuzzo – Brian Dumoulin
Simon Despres – Philip Samuelsson
Injured: Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Kris Letang (upper body), Brooks Orpik (head), Andrew Ebbett (ankle), Beau Bennett (wrist), Tanner Glass (hand), Paul Martin (leg), Rob Scuderi (ankle), Jayson Megna (lower body), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)
Scratched: Brian Gibbons
Suspended: Deryk Engelland
Curtis Glencross – Matt Stajan – Lee Stempniak
Paul Byron – Sean Monahan – Jiri Hudler
Michael Cammalleri – Mikael Backlund – David Jones
Lance Bouma – Joe Colborne – Brian McGrattan
Ladislav Smid – Mark Giordano
Chris Butler – Shane O'Brien
Kris Russell – TJ Brodie
Injured: Dennis Wideman (hand)
Scratched: Blair Jones, Christopher Breen